Much literature exists asserting overarching laws of leadership that result in positive outcomes and success. Some include The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey, Gung Ho! by Ken Blanchard and Sheldon Bowles, FISH! by Stephen Lundin, Harry Paul, and John Christensen, and The Leadership Challenge by James Kouzes and Barry Posner.
Each of these works, and many others, assert effective leaders carry with them a positive aura in everything they do. In short, successful leaders have charisma. In nearly all interactions, the best leaders leave others feeling listened to, understood, important, and better about themselves.
Effective leaders know what they stand for. They are clear about it, and they talk about it with others at every opportunity. These leaders embrace and model the values, or beliefs, of the organization and its people. These leaders are clear about the mission, or purpose, of the organizations they serve; and, about the vision of their organization, i.e. what that mission would look and feel like fully accomplished.
These leaders collaborate with others to set BIG goals to realize that vision. These high achieving leaders then vary their work and style to support team members to get the job done. They act as director, supporter, coach, mentor, and facilitator. At times, successful leaders "Get on the Balcony" (Richard DuFour, In Praise of Top Down Leadership), and monitor, evaluate, and orchestrate work, while giving respectful and valuable feedback to team members. At times, successful leaders step on the playing field and do the "scut work" (DuFour); they are not afraid of getting involved and messy, while always respecting the roles of other team members; and, without micromanaging them.
Effective leaders are "tight" about the important tenets of the organization. And of course at times, leaders must be firm and direct with team members when they stay from those tenets. Conversely, effective leaders are often "loose" regarding means and methods; thus, eliciting creativity and innovation from team members. (DuFour)
Successful leaders speak clearly and plainly about what the organization, and its people, must stand for. Then, these leaders thoughtfully fertilize the organizational soil with a safe and collaborative team environment, and enthusiastic support for idea generation. The successful leader then relishes observing team members' synergy, creativity, and innovation, which generate solutions, approaches, and strategies no individual, including the leader, could have developed on his or her own.
Leadership + Service = Positive Community Relations and Support
Here are Ten Principles of School Leadership that synthesize leadership literature.
1. Be positive - This is your choice. The leader's energy flows through the organization like water finds its path.
2. Every single day, take time to envision what you wish for your school or district to be. Every day. - In what often feels like a storm of activity, the true leader finds a quite place daily to reflect on the organization's values, mission, vision, and BIG goals; and asks - What are we doing? Is it working? How do we know? Now what?
3. Set goals, write them down, monitor, evaluate, and give constructive feedback. - The work of leadership does not end with establishing a mission, vision, and goals. Effective leadership includes the ability to execute. Knowing what is happening in the organization to further those goals, and to inhibit the achievement of those goals, is critical.
4. Get messy. Do the hard work alongside team members. - In order to gain the respect and trust of team members, the leader needs to demonstrate the knowledge, abilities, and willingness to do the hard and messy work. Doing this without micromanaging is a delicate dance that the leader must learn and master.
5. Serve people. - Enough said.
6. Find joy in a student every single day. - Our business is developing hearts, minds, and bodies of young people. A successful leader is passionate about his or her business. Enjoy your product. Interact early and often with children and youngsters.
7. Seek out a staff member every day and make his or her day. - One of the four principles of the FISH! Philosophy (Lundin, et al.) is Make their Day! A school leader's second client is the teacher/staff member. Be passionate about serving them. Sometimes negative or troubled employees take the lion's share of our time. Remind yourself as the leader daily of teachers' and staff members' importance and good work. Go out and seek examples of such, and say "thank you."
8. Read something important. - The successful leader is constantly learning, growing, and evolving in mind and spirit. The effective leader reflects critically on readings, and incorporates new ideas into his or her mindset and practice. The vehicles for such are reading and writing.
9. Have and protect "home time"; be present with loved ones. - The effective leader is a grounded leader. Broken leaders lead broken teams. Schedule your time with loved ones; and then, protect it fiercely.
10. Breath; and, smile often. - Leaders of human beings are human beings. Don't take yourself so seriously. Look around, breathe deeply, and soak it in. Enjoy the world around you. Smile at people; smile at yourself. People notice, and will follow suit.
A "Principle" is an accepted rule of action or conduct (Dictionary.com). An "Axiom" is more sacred; it is a self-evident truth that requires no proof (Dictionary.com). These three Axioms of Service subsume the Ten Principles of School Leadership.
1. Show Up. - People can be fickle. They sometimes only know what they see. Presence equates to caring. Showing Up, however, is not only about physical presence. It's also about your mindset and what you do when you are present.
2. Be Present. - Lundin et al.'s tenet of the FISH! Philosophy, "Be There", says to bring your very best self, fully engaged and immersed, to every interaction, relationship, and situation. It's not enough to simply show up in order to be successful and fulfilled in life. We must also Be Present - Be There, fully committed and engaged, making every person with whom we interact feel as if that person is the most important person in the room. The act of building up others is the most powerful form of improving our own selves.
3. Keep Showing Up. - Showing Up once gets the nod. Showing Up twice raises the eyebrow. Showing Up again and again, with consistent and active engagement, begets trust, respect, and loyalty. It results in our own better understanding of people, life, and our surroundings. Showing Up and Being Present feed our passion for life, and to serve.
The most successful leaders - great leaders - Show Up, are Present, engaged, enthusiastic and committed when they do; and, they Show Up again and again.
Show Up. Be Present. Keep Showing Up.